KANSAS CITY — Bowls aren’t just for cereal or soup anymore. Food service operators and prepared foods manufacturers are offering premium meal solutions featuring bowls as a carrier for mixing and matching ingredients to create unique textures and flavors.
The use of bowls as a meal delivery vehicle is not new. The concept has trended upward during the past decade as such fast-casual chains as Chipotle Mexican Grill, Taco Bell and KFC have added bowl varieties as choices on menus. What is relatively new is how some restaurant chefs and consumer packaged goods companies have embraced the concept.
The American Egg Board, Chicago, recently identified bowls as a “limitless opportunity” for chefs to develop culinary creations. In a video produced by the group, Chef Ina Pinkney, who is also known as the “breakfast queen,” called bowls a “great customization format.”
“I love the fact you get to build it,” she added. “You get to eat it in layers or you can kind of mix it all together.”
Showcasing such creativity is Olive Garden, a restaurant concept owned by Darden Restaurants, that recently introduced its Meatball Pizza Bowl. The new menu item features pizza dough baked into a bowl shape and filled with melted Italian cheese, meatballs and meat sauce.
One C.P.G. company innovating with bowl applications is Conagra Brands, Inc., Chicago. The company introduced its Healthy Choice Power Bowls in May 2017. Later this year Conagra Brands plans to extend the line into the morning daypart with Power Bowls in such varieties as pesto and egg white scramble, roasted red pepper and white shakshuka, unwrapped burrito scramble, and turkey sausage and egg white scramble.
“We are reimagining breakfast, and we’re bringing Healthy Choice Power Bowls into breakfast,” said Sean Connolly, chief executive officer, during a presentation Feb. 20 at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference that took place in Boca Raton, Fla. “This is not ham, egg and cheese on a bagel. These are really sophisticated, high-quality, super-healthy breakfast bowls all under 190 calories. You can see the pesto and egg white scramble here. It’s a real incremental addition to the breakfast space.”
The company also will be introducing a meatless line of Power Bowls later in the year. Varieties will include mango edamame, curry cauliflower, falafel and tahini, and white bean and feta salad.
Pinnacle Foods, Inc., Parsippany, N.J., is also bringing more bowl applications to the frozen food aisle through its Evol brand.
“Evol will be launching a modern approach to bowls, packed with everything you need for a more customized diet,” said Mark A. Clouse, chief executive officer, March 1 during a conference call to discuss the company’s fiscal 2017 results. “Each bowl delivers a specific ingredient bundle to meet consumer needs, such as performance, energy, plant-based lifestyle or simply balanced nutrition.”
Mr. Clouse added that the company sees a significant opportunity to better meet specific consumer needs with the bowl applications. The new products come in such varieties as Boost, Vitalize and Warrior. The Vitalize variety includes grilled chicken with grains and vegetables in a tangy tahini and feta sauce, and the Warrior variety features seared beef with brown rice, edamame, carrots, broccoli and bell peppers in a miso glaze.
During the Natural Products Expo West trade show, held March 8-11 in Anaheim, Calif., several companies introduced new meal solutions featuring a bowl. Nona Lim, San Francisco, introduced a line of noodle bowls in varieties like Thai coconut lime, chicken pho and green curry. The products have a suggested retail price of $6.99.
“Convenient, gourmet noodle bowls have been the No. 1 customer request for years,” said Nona Lim, founder of the company. “We finally cracked the code for a line of noodle bowls that is as convenient as the instant ramen so many of us ate in college but is made with gourmet ingredients with no additives or preservatives.”
Grainful, Ithaca, N.Y., reintroduced its line of products to using a bowl to improve the eating experience, according to the company. Varieties include Tuscan bean and kale, unstuffed pepper, vegetarian chili, and porcini mushroom chicken.
“Our products compare with grain-bowls from top fast-casual restaurants — layers of nutritious whole grains, fresh veggies, and flavorful sauces,” said Jan Pajerski, president of Grainful.